31 Jul Former victim of domestic violence uses story to inspire others
According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women or 25 percent have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. More startling is that on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners.
One who almost faced that deadly fate and not without some serious mental and physical scaring is Houston resident Laura White.
White was around 45 when she met Dennis Foreman, a man thirteen or so years older than her at church in 2003. Around that time, White had just dealt with a traumatic divorce that saw her ex-husband leave her for another woman. When she met Foreman everything started wonderful. Then things changed and the nightmare began.
“After we had been together for a while he really started to exhibit a lot of signs of anger and verbal abuse,” said White. “He was extremely paranoid all the time and I would always get in trouble for doing things wrong like putting the hangers in the wrong place or forgetting something on the grocery list.”
Things would escalate to where Foreman would accuse her of infidelity along with radical mood swings. At that point there wasn’t any physical violence but verbal damage had become the norm. Foreman would also try to control her through physiological games according to White.
“One night he sat me on the table and flashed a light in my eye as he was interrogating me as a police would,” White explained. “I never knew what he would be like when I would come back from work.”
Foreman was so controlling that White wasn’t allowed to see family including her own kids from her previous marriage.
“He basically isolated me,” White said.
Like many women subjected to abuse, White would either blame herself or think that it would eventually get better. She would later go on to say that Foreman suffered from insecurity issues outside of being a former alcoholic and drug abuser.
“He was a really nice guy when he wasn’t being mean,” explained White. “ I kept thinking he would get through whatever problems he had going on and things would get better.”
White would marry Foreman in 2007 in hopes of changing his suspicion of her being unfaithful.
The outside perception of Foreman was that he was a kind man who was very giving, not knowing the trauma he was subjecting White to.
“He was the guy that everybody thought was the nicest man in the world,” White explained. “But he had a dark side to him that a lot of people didn’t see.”
Because White’s kids were dealing with the divorce of her former husband, they tried to be accepting to Foreman but began to worry about her after they picked up on her mannerisms.
“They saw changes in me with being with him,” said White. “I started really shutting down.”
White says that her and Foreman tried counseling through her church’s pastor. According to White, her ex-husband was so much of a smooth talker that everything was her fault. That was the first sign that this unhealthy relationship had to end. The second sign not only was the last straw, but could have ended violently.
One rainy night, her two-year-old grandson felt Foreman’s abuse for simply playing on a toy piano. After being yelled at, White’s grandson began to cry uncontrollably for his mother leading Foreman to kick him out the house.
“He told him to go find your mother if you want your mother,” White said. “I was petrified, I was sitting their and I didn’t want to make it worst.”
With Foreman making her grandson stand outside for about five minutes, she would realize the child had wondered off into the street. The look on her grandchild’s face broke her heart.
“He just looked at me like why wouldn’t you helped me,” said White who realized that enough was enough.
Outside of facing the abuse, White worked a full time job in which she paid majority of the bills and was a full time student at the University of Houston Downtown where she hoped to graduate the following year in business management.
In September 2009 she began to start divorce proceedings and move out of Foreman’s home into her own apartment.
It appeared as if everything was starting to turn back to normal when White received a call from Foreman.
According to White, Foreman seemed to be begging her to come see him in regards to divorce talks. She agreed to meet with him the next day on the golf course because both enjoyed the sport.
Foreman suggested that the two get something to eat and bring it to his home in Northwest Houston so they can discuss the divorce more after playing golf all day.
“Next thing I knew, I was in the bedroom with a shotgun to my face,” said White. “He said I was going to kill you and I’m going to kill myself.”
Terrified, White didn’t know what to do and Foreman’s words became graphic.
“He told me he was going to shove the shotgun inside me,” White said. “ At that point I thought to myself, that not only was this man going to kill me but he was going to torture me.”
White then decided in her mind at that moment that if he was going to shot her, he would have to do it as she was attempting to escape. As she jumped to get around him, he managed to shoot her right in the abdomen.
According to White, it wasn’t the shotgun blast that sent her to the floor but the shells’ pellets severing a nerve in her left leg. Foreman in a state of panic blamed her.
“Now I don’t have the courage to kill myself, you’re going to die and I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison,” White echoing her former husband. “I’m looking up at him from the floor like are you kidding me?”
After 30 minutes, Foreman pretended to call 911 and puts the gun in his mouth before saying that he couldn’t go through with ending his own life.
“Give me the gun I’ll do it,” White retorts wittingly to Foreman before he shouts more expletives at her.
As White began to go into shock due to the massive gunshot wound, she asked Foreman to shot her again and just end it. That’s when he changed, realized what he did and called 911. Luckily for White, the fire station was right around the corner or three minutes away.
White would be airlifted to the hospital after being wrapped up to keep her insides together, she was airlifted to the hospital.
Foreman was right about everything except one thing. He didn’t have the courage to kill himself and he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison but White wouldn’t die.
By the time White arrived at Hermann Memorial Hospital, she didn’t have a pulse and she completely bleed out.
“The doctors gave me less than one percent chance of living,” said White.
She would be in a comma for three weeks, endure twelve surgeries, have to be given 28 units of blood (the human body only takes 23), and lost 80 percent of her digestive system including 17 feet of her small intestines.
Doctors advised White’s children to look for some sort of nursing home.
“I was out of the hospital in three months and back at work in seven,” White said who currently has to be careful with her diet. “I am having an excellent quality of life.”
The emotional recover hasn’t been as easy on the other hand.
“I still suffer from post traumatic stress but I don’t have any nightmares anymore, White said. “It wasn’t easy because the recovery has been long and hard.”
Foreman’s trial for the shooting would take place a year to the day where he would be charged with aggravated assault on a family member with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury according to White.
According to White, it was an open and shut case but she would receive help from Foreman’s former girlfriend. Foreman had gained a felony prior to his relationship with White when he kidnapped a former girlfriend and repeatedly rapped her
“I knew he had a prior felony on his record; he had kidnapped a former girlfriend who had broke up him and repeatedly raped her at gunpoint,” explained White. “My story is what found him guilty, her story is what gave him life.”
In fact, White saw her exact same story and pattern of abuse when she spoke to one of Foreman’s former wives.
“It was like we were completing each other’s sentences,” White said.
Still facing panic attacks one night, she would call the number for the national domestic violence hotline which would lead her to the Houston Area Women’s Center.
Started in 1977 by a small group of volunteers, The Houston Area Women’s Center was created to help individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence in their efforts to move their lives forward.
“We’ve gone from being an organization of volunteers to being an organization with around 120 full and part time employees,” said current president and CEO Rebecca White.
The center has two 24 hour numbers for both sexual assault and domestic violence. If a women calls for domestic violence, there are trained advocates that can help the victim form a safety plan and talk about resources that she might need.
If shelter is needed, there is a 120 room shelter located in an undisclosed location for a women and children up to the age of 18. Women who come to the shelter as a house wife have opportunities through a career development program according to White.
“Where ever they are, we try to help them where they want to go,” said White who had a background in many non-profits and for-profits before joining the center.
White said that domestic violence stories like the one of Laura White are pretty common in all forms of life.
“Domestic violence effects everyone; doesn’t matter about race, age, gender,” said White. “Nobody is immune to it.”
One of the programs that the Houston Area Women’s Center offers are group sessions, something that makes the issue of domestic violence a little more easier to talk about. According to Rebecca White, it’s powerful.
“You can get a group of women into a room and they start talking about their experience and you can hear another women say this happened to me too,” explained White.
Because of the change in time, White has said that the issue has gotten greater awareness.
“30 years ago you might have seen someone with a black eye and you would just turn the other way, explained White. “There weren’t any services available and now there are.
One of the ways The Houston Women’s Center has tried to curb domestic violence is through education.
“You start before violence occurs and that means typical starting with younger people,” White said before suggesting to look for signs. “Talk about what healthy relationships look like, talk about equality between partners, talk about the underlining issues of control.”
Interestingly enough, Laura White didn’t even know what domestic violence was before entering the center.
“I never been around it, never experienced it and when I went to the center it was 58 women there,” said White. “It was like I had come home.”
Following her horrific experience, White has found a new lease on life. She has found a better job, recently bought a home, is planning to write a book and has a significant other. Most importantly, she hopes to one day volunteer at The Houston Women’s Center.
“I’m no longer a victim anymore I’m a survivor, White said. “God has truly blessed me.”
Note from Uralg:
This is one of the last feature articles I tried to get done for my former job at The Houston Sun. It never ran because the subject of the feature “wasn’t black” or some old insecure racism. Since it never ran and I worked so hard on it, figured it’d be best to just post it here. Though the story was quite heartbreaking and sickening, I’m honored that I had the chance to hear Ms. White’s story. Stories like these need to be told and though the feature never ran, it was just personally worth it.